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Meeting the gubernatorial candidates: Attorney General Maura Healey21:12
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Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Her office launched an investigation into the Danvers school district. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Her office launched an investigation into the Danvers school district. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Attorney General Maura Healey is pushing back on claims that she's trying to paint herself as more moderate as she runs for governor.

Her critics say Healey is using a strategy to attract supporters of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

Recent polling from MassINC and Policy for Progress shows roughly 45% of voters — regardless of party affiliation — want a new governor who is similar to Baker.

Healey told WBUR's Radio Boston she is a proud progressive, but added the race is not about labels.

"I understand that there are those who want to ascribe labels to me," she said. "Frankly, I don't know that voters or ordinary people care much about labels. They care about who you are and what you're going to do. For me, I'm not trying to do anything other than speak to what I see as the real issues and the real concerns that voters have, and they are looking to our next governor to do something about."

Healey said those issues include child care, infrastructure, the cost of health care and the COVID-19 pandemic. She said her record in the AG's office has always been centered around people and she plans to continue that work as governor.

"Equity is at the center of my work and focus," Healey said. "There is tremendous capacity to build out new and different ways of doing things across all realms in government that are going to make a meaningful difference in people's lives that allow everyone to thrive."

Healey also stands firm on another, more personal policy of note to Bay Staters: no iced coffee during the winter.

"Absolutely not. I need my hot, steaming cup," she said.

(Editor's Note: WBUR senior political reporter Anthony Brooks joined Radio Boston to provide context and analysis following Healey's interview. Audio from that conversation can be heard via the player atop this post.)

Highlights from this interview have been lightly edited for clarity.

Interview Highlights

On what Healey's 16-year-old self would say to her now about running for governor:

"Probably, 'What happened?' I grew up in a little town in seacoast New Hampshire, my folks are from Newburyport. But early on, my mom in particular was really involved in [the] community — whether [it was] starting the historical society, or being involved in Grange, or setting up our first [Girl Scouts] Brownie troop. And I think from there, I learned the importance of caring for community.

I'm also the oldest of five, and growing up with a single mom for a long time, we sort of also learned how to take care of, and the importance of taking care of, one another. I ended up — after a brief stint playing pro basketball overseas after college — going to law school, because I wanted to fight to make life better for people, to pursue justice and fairness and help out those who are vulnerable. That's what led me to law school. It's what led me to the Civil Rights Division in the attorney general's office. It's what led me to run as an unlikely and an unknown candidate ... seven years ago. And it's the way I've tried to lead this office as the people's lawyer."

On memories of her mom that informed and shaped the person she became:

"I remember a couple of things. One, I was a little girl and I laying down at the kitchen sink with my legs across the stovetop, and she was washing my hair. And I told her I'd heard about this thing called 'Brownies,' and we didn't have a Brownie troop. But next thing you know, my mom had started the Brownie troop in town.

"I remember when my mom sold her wedding ring to pave half a basketball court out behind our farmhouse so that we would have a place to go every day. I spent a lot of time out there on the courts. I think about the time that I spent, she would get up ... she cared for people in the morning as a nurse before she then went off to do school nursing and, you know, seeing her get up and leaving the house at 6 o'clock in the morning to go and take care of someone before she'd come back and make sure we had breakfast and were off to school, it made it pretty easy for me later on to get myself out of bed and go and waitress in the early morning or in the evening in between coaching clinics and basketball workouts all through high school and college.

"I see even in these really hard and challenging times — where so much has been revealed, disparities that have existed forever have been exacerbated — I see this tremendous opportunity to grow and build in ways that we have not yet even imagined. We have incredible potential here in this state."

Attorney General Maura Healey

"These are just lessons that you learn about teamwork, about hard work, about working with different kinds of people and ... just trying to do the best you can. And God knows I haven't been perfect and have any number of flaws and failings. I am lucky, though, that I grew up with a mom who had a spirit of, I think, just sort of instilling these things in us without us, of course, ever knowing or beginning to appreciate it until now. And you look back in later years with a little bit more understanding of what it took to get her through it, and to get us through as a family."

On what makes her better than anyone else to serve Massachusetts as governor:

"I think that I bring the right experience, the right vision and the right record of teamwork and getting things done to make life better for people in our state. I've stood by the people of Massachusetts as the people's lawyer, advocating for our rights, protecting our democracy, standing up to the most powerful of interests — whether it was taking on Purdue [Pharma] and the Sacklers, ExxonMobil, the [National Rifle Association] — running an office that I really tried to center, from the time I began, around this idea of 'the people's law firm.' We're going to be there to serve people, and whether that was helping student borrowers just crushed by debt, workers who needed protection from having their wages stolen or workplace safety conditions. Tenants, immigrants, consumers. I mean, these are the people that my team and I have served in the past seven years.

"I've also come to know this state, all its cities and towns and its regions, and its needs. I make this run and I am excited about this run because I see even in these really hard and challenging times — where so much has been revealed, disparities that have existed forever have been exacerbated — I see this tremendous opportunity to grow and build in ways that we have not yet even imagined. We have incredible potential here in this state."

On pain points and opportunities Healey has seen across the state that would be on her initial agenda if she becomes governor:

"One thing I'm most proud of as attorney general is we put an equity lens on everything that we do. Everything that runs through the office — whether it's consumer work, financial services or the environment, health care — everything is looked at through an equity lens. So you asked about a couple of pain points. One, I think, is the pain point of COVID and the disparities that we've seen, not just in health care ... but also the things that lead to some of those disparities.

"For example, I remember back several months ago, I was out in Springfield. Why? Springfield is the asthma capital of the country, sadly enough. A lot of kids end up going to the emergency room there with asthma. My team and I were out there because we used settlement funds to buy air filters that would monitor the air quality within Springfield so that parents and moms could be warned about what was happening, and also so that public health actions could be taken to address those issues. You see a problem, you see an issue, you also see potential solutions. And right now we're working with the Yale School of Public Health on addressing some of that."

On things the governor can uniquely do to address those pain points:

"Oh, so much. ... I've been into these issues as I can through my role as attorney general. But you know, you think about building out a plan of true climate resilience. You think about a plan where we are going to get our state agencies working closely with communities — particularly communities that have been the victims of injustice and environmental [injustice], systemic racism, for so long. You think about the levers that you can use within those agencies to assist, empower communities to address those disparities.

"Also ... we're in a unique time. We have never seen so much coming into the state in terms of funding as we do right now. I think there is an incredible opportunity to deploy that and think about it, particularly when it comes to climate — and I have said that I will be the most aggressive and insightful and innovative governor harnessing all the levers when it comes to combating the climate crisis right now. I've also talked about the economic imperative and opportunity that that provides — not just for jobs, but also ... if you think about the research that's happening in this state that we can use to harness the movement there, when you think about the manufacturing that's possible inland when it comes to supporting our offshore wind industry, it's tremendously exciting."

On feedback she has heard from voters about changing her approach to be a successful governor, compared to what it took to be successful as attorney general:

"I don't know that I have to change at all, nor has anybody really talked to me about that. I mean, for better or worse, the voters are going to make a decision [about] whether they want to essentially hire me based on who I am, what I've done and what I say I will do. I honestly have tried to run the office and have had this role as attorney general really centered around people and the human condition. I've talked a lot about the need right now as we go forward to tackle the high cost of living that is crushing families — whether it comes to child care, or health care, or transportation or groceries. These are things, though, that I actually thought a lot about and we did work on as attorney general. Because it was always about, 'What do we need to do to improve the health and well-being of residents and families and communities in our state?'

"I will be the most aggressive and insightful and innovative governor harnessing all the levers when it comes to combating the climate crisis right now."

Attorney General Maura Healey

"When I announced two weeks ago today over the rainy cold in [East Boston] at Maverick Station, that night I held a call for volunteers — and I had 350 people from around the state call in and say, 'Sign me up, I want to help get signatures, I want to help with caucuses, I want to be on this team,' and I think that's a reflection of an appreciation of the record and what I bring to this race, and how people view me in terms of my capacity to lead going forward as governor."

On whether she sees herself as having a moderate agenda:

"I am a proud progressive and I am incredibly proud of my record. I mean, look, I was the one that challenged and successfully defeated the Defense of Marriage Act. I brought cases against big banks, first-of-its-kind civil rights claims for their discriminatory practices back in the day of the mortgage meltdown in 2008. The work that I've done, I am very, very proud of my progressive record.

"That is why you hear me talking about child care and a system right now that does not work for enough families. A reason that so many women have left the workforce and are not returning — remember, we're at our lowest rate in women's workforce participation ... since Ronald Reagan — is because of child care. So it's about child care, it's about the cost of health care. It's about building out the infrastructure in our communities. I mean, people actually do really care about what's happening in terms of bridges and roads. They care a lot about climate and an aggressive vision for the future. The high cost of living that they're confronting now — I mean, these are things I am talking about recognizing that these are the issues that the vast majority of voters in our state are really thinking through right now.

"Remember, there is tremendous fallout from COVID, and we're still in the midst of this pandemic, I understand. And I'm somebody who's always prioritized mental health, behavioral health — those needs have only grown significantly in the last couple of years, and it's another area where our next governor needs to make even stronger investments. I'm just going to speak to people and meet people where they are, listen as I did before and learn from that, and go forward with a vision for the future."

This segment aired on February 3, 2022.

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